A New Way  

Posted by Alex Thompson in , , , , , , ,

Alright, it's that time again. I choose to make up a new rating device for my (Thursday)Friday writing. Here it is:


I’d like to talk with you today about something that is very dear to my heart. Ever since I saw Aladdin in the rinky-dink old theater near my house when I was four, I have been fascinated by the art of movies. The gen-pop thinks of movies only as entertainment and the people who are way into film think of them as art. I know both of these factions are wrong. Obviously, film is both art and entertainment. Every movie lies somewhere on the spectrum between the Mona Lisa and Dogs Playing Poker. No, that’s not right either. Let’s use the “horizontal” and “vertical” ideas from class to classify movies better. If entertainment value can be seen as a horizontal scale and the artistic nature as the vertical scale, every movie has a distinct x and y value (this is what happens when you take a former engineering major and turn him into an English major). If the x value is negative, the movie is no fun to watch, but if it’s positive you are gonna get some kind of pleasure out of it. If the y value is negative there is no art to be found, but if it’s positive you’ll see something original or perfectly executed. Allow me to give you some examples.

Recently, there has been a stint of what some people call “comedies” but I like to call “crap”. These are the Date Movie, Superhero Movie, Disaster Movie endless stream of ______ Movie “spoofs”. If I were to assign these films a coordinate on our art/film graph, they would have something like a (-100, -10000). Please take my word for it. I have seen them so you don’t have to.

Let’s now examine a good movie. Last year a French(ish) film called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was released. It’s the story of the then editor-in-chief of Elle magazine who becomes paralyzed and can only move one of his eyeballs. The first fifteen or so minutes are shot from the point of view of that eye and it is breathtaking. There is a scene where his other eye must be stitched up and we see that from the POV of that eye and it is nerve-wracking. This movie is the perfect example of art and entertainment because not only is it technically marvelous, it is also a touching, funny story. There is a flashback to the main character shaving his father’s beard that made me cry. I would give The Diving Bell and The Butterfly a (80, 99) coordinate on my newly created scale.

Of course, there are films that are extremely well made but horrible to watch. The recently remade Funny Games is a perfect example of this phenomenon. It’s a story about a family on vacation who are basically kidnapped and tortured in their own house by two seemingly nice young men. This isn’t torture-porn of the Saw or Hostel variety, though. None of the violence is onscreen and the movie breaks the fourth wall several times. It is incredibly well made, but made to make you feel bad about wanting to watch movies that are entertaining because of their violence. There is no joy from watching the perfectly executed treatise on violence in movies, but you cannot deny that it is precisely planned to be that way. It would get about a (-50, 80) on the scale ‘o’ artertainment (I made that word up. I’m a regular Dr. Seuss).
I hope you have enjoyed your education. Now you know how to properly view films, or at least how to properly think about a film afterward.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 18, 2008 at Thursday, September 18, 2008 and is filed under , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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